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TSN Toronto Maple Leafs Reporter

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The Maple Leafs held a noon practice at MasterCard Centre. TSN's Kristen Shilton has more in her notes from Maple Leafs practice on Sunday. 

There’s nowhere Frederik Andersen wants to be more than back in the Maple Leafs’ crease. But he’ll have to wait at least three more days before that happens.

Despite Andersen taking part in his second full-team practice on Sunday, Mike Babcock already ruled him out for Monday’s game against Nashville by revealing Michael Hutchinson will get his third consecutive start for Toronto. Andersen's next opportunity to play won't come until Thursday in New Jersey. 

“The idea is to be ready to play. It goes without saying,” Andersen said. “Until then, we take care of what we can control and make sure the right treatment is being given.”

It’s been more than two weeks since Andersen’s last start on Dec. 22, when he was already dealing with the groin injury that would eventually sideline him. Andersen held out hope the ailment would improve over Christmas, but when that wasn’t the case, he had no choice but to put his faith in the Leafs’ medical staff to guide him on the right path.

“I’ve never dealt with anything groin-related before,” Andersen said. “When it [didn’t feel great after Christmas], it wasn’t alarming, but it was something to kind of take care of before it got out of hand, and to try and control it and get rid of it before it becomes a bigger problem.”

To that end, Andersen’s recovery process is being handled meticulously, and with as much patience as he can muster. During and after each skating session, Andersen measures how he’s feeling and checks in with the team’s medical and sports science staffs for further instruction.

He said that first team practice on Friday was “a hard day” while Saturday’s morning skate was “a little easier,” but found Sunday’s skate challenging once again.

“Mostly [it’s measured] in soreness and how well your body is moving and flexibility and stuff like that,” he said. “That’s all the stuff they’re great about in the training room but it’s ongoing. It’s really important that we do it the right way.”

Helping Andersen stay focused only on his recovery has been the play of Hutchinson. The veteran netminder recorded his first shutout in his second appearance for Toronto on Saturday, blanking the Vancouver Canucks 5-0, and he’s been as serviceable a replacement between the pipes as Toronto could have hoped for on such short notice.

“It’s never fun watching, but a game like last night helps. Hutch was great,” Andersen said. “It makes it a little bit easier to take your time and not rush, which is also really important. You don’t [want to] push it and maybe jump in a little quicker than you’re ready for. That’s where they’re pulling a little among the medical staff and making sure we’re doing it right.”


As soon as Leafs’ back-up goalie Garret Sparks took the first puck off his mask from William Nylander on Wednesday, he should have pulled himself out of practice. Instead, Sparks stayed in the net, and was hit again in the mask by Nylander.

The cumulative effect of the bumps is what Sparks says caused his first-ever concussion.

“I’ve taken hundreds of shots off the head and I’ve never experienced any issues,” Sparks said. “It’s [also] recognizing that after the first time you get hit, if it hurts, maybe don’t get hit again. [Nylander] feels bad. I know he would never in a million years try to do something like that to me, so no hard feelings.”

It wasn’t until later in the day on Wednesday, after practice was long over, that Sparks contacted the Leafs’ medical staff and told them he wasn’t feeling well. Unlike some players who struggle with lighting and sounds after suffering a concussion, Sparks said his symptoms were a bit different.

“A lot of it was just not feeling like myself, and not being present,” he said. “Once that started to go away and I started to feel more like myself, I knew things were improving.”

For Toronto, the timing of Sparks’ injury couldn’t have been much worse. Andersen was already dealing with his groin problem, and three days later Sparks was out of commission too. And before he was hurt, Sparks had put together a solid start to his campaign, going 6-2-1 with 3.00 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.

Fortunately, Sparks said he hasn’t felt an ounce of pressure from anyone to get back into action before he’s ready.

“When it happens to you initially, your mind goes to ‘when can I come back?’” he said. “Everyone here has been great, from management to training staff to coaches, just trying to make sure my health is a priority and I feel incredible before I come back and I’m not in a position where I’m rushing to come back.”

Sparks is known for being a gear junkie and getting involved with the design of almost everything he wears. So it’s no surprise he’ll look into adjustments that can be made to his equipment that might prevent issues like his in the future.

 “All I can do is try and prepare myself better,” he said. “Try to make sure my masks are in a better spot, make sure they’re fresher, their padding is a little bit thicker. Make tweaks like that.”

Watching the Leafs carry on without him is as difficult for Sparks as it for Andersen, but he got a thrill out of seeing Hutchinson’s shut out on Saturday. It was three years ago that Sparks recorded his first career shutout for the Leafs, in his first-ever NHL start. From that experience, to Hutchinson’s own history with head injuries, the two goalies have been able to bond quickly.

“He’s a Toronto kid who’s dreamed about this moment forever,” Sparks said of the Barrie, Ontario native. “I was able to have experience a couple of years ago. There was nobody happier for him once he got into the room than me and Freddie and [Kasimir Kaskisuo]. He’s shared his experiences with…what he’s done to come back from [head injuries], so I’m learning a lot from him.”


It’s not that Zach Hyman wasn’t in pain after going into the boards against New Jersey on Dec. 18. He just didn’t feel enough of it to even consider leaving the ice.

“I thought I just sprained my ankle,” Hyman said. “It ended up being more severe than what it was. I taped it up and played through the game. Took the next day off and tried to skate and it was tender, so we got the MRI done and it was an ankle sprain.”

That was on Dec. 20, and Hyman has been out of action ever since. Toronto announced at the time it would be a minimum of three weeks before the winger could return, a timeline that falls into this week.

While Hyman was able to participate in his first team practice on Sunday after skating on his own with trainers for several days, he isn’t expected to be back for Monday’s tilt against Nashville.

“It’s not really in my hands, I just go out there and practice and try to show the guys I’m able to play and what not,” he said. “I’m progressing. It was definitely a good step.”

Hyman said the only real challenge to the whole recovery process for him has been in not being able to play, and he’s excited that the prospect of a return is inching steadily closer.

Before missing the Leafs last seven games, Hyman was playing on Toronto’s top line with John Tavares and Mitch Marner, recording 15 points in 32 games. Babcock said as soon as Hyman is healthy, he’ll slot right back into the lineup.

Now all he needs is the medical clearance to do so.

“[I feel] good, it felt good to be out there,” he said. “Our medical staff…are protecting you from yourself. I think that’s important because before I would go out there and play through whatever I can. Credit to them for being with me the whole way through and getting me back as fast as possible.”


Maple Leafs lines at practice: